Mountain Bikers Aren’t Just Riders. We’re Builders [The Stoke]

The Stoke is an occasional opinion series highlighting the things that get us stoked about mountain biking. 🤘 👍 👏 🙏

When was the last time you saw a professional golfer mowing the grass?

Admittedly I don’t follow golf closely, so maybe golfers are big time landscapers, but I kinda doubt it. My kids’ elementary school teachers are fond of asking the (mostly rhetorical) question, “Are you a passenger, or are you crew?” and for the mountain bikers I know, the answer is a resounding “crew.” It’s yet another reason I’m stoked to be a mountain biker.

Take Red Bull Rampage, for example. The self-described “Super Bowl of Mountain Biking” isn’t held in some overly manicured, glorified flower garden. It’s held in the dusty, rugged Utah desert where competitors essentially have a blank slate to create their own playing field. Matt Miller asked freerider Carson Storch how important the dig crew is for Rampage, and here’s what he said:

It’s really important. If you have a vision and the dig crew isn’t that motivated to work really, really hard, then it’s hard to accomplish what you want.

So, having a dig crew you can trust and you trust them with the way they build and see the terrain, it’s really important.

Dustin could go build me a line and I’d trust it, through and through, because he could ride it as well. So it’s important to have a crew you could trust and that you know are going to work as hard as they can, because that’s pretty much what you have to do to build a pretty unique line out here.

Dustin Gilding helps build for Carson Storch at Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, UT October 12, 2018. Photo: Paris Gore / Red Bull Content Pool.

Storch doesn’t say it directly, but like other freeride athletes, he’s right there with his crew digging and shaping the lines that he’ll ultimately ride, both in practice and competition.

A lot of riders, myself included, take satisfaction in creating and building for ourselves, but there’s much more to it than that. Building lines, and trails, and trail features is what unlocks progression for everyone, from the youngest kid to the most ambitious pro. To have the opportunity to literally build the lines that build our skills, from the ground up, is one of the things that makes mountain biking so damn awesome. Every kid who ever built a bike ramp in the street using a board and a rock knows what I’m talking about. After a few runs, we’re all looking for a bigger rock and a skinnier board.

The mantra “no build, no ride” isn’t something you’ll ever hear a road cyclist say, but it’s commonplace among mountain bikers. Of course road bikers have plenty of opinions about what makes for a good road to ride (fewer potholes! no traffic! better scenery!) but they have ZERO control over any of that stuff. After a while a lack of control over one’s circumstances starts to feel like a drag. As mountain bikers, we’re empowered to not only keep the fire burning, but we’re invited to continue stoking it so it burns even hotter.

Sure, sometimes that passion can boil over, getting mountain bikers into trouble with illegal builds and pirate trails. But at least no one can ever accuse us of lacking enthusiasm or motivation to improve our circumstances.

Even the tools to build trails are super accessible. A set of clippers, a folding saw, and a shovel is just about all that’s needed. Try building a golf course or a football field using hand tools and see how long that takes.

Every trail we ride likely has a story of someone, or a group of someones, who decided to build something, not just for themselves but for their community. Our community. A recent story about a mountain bike trail build in Kentucky opens with a quote from James Sergeant: “I basically said, ‘Look, we’ve got to do something.'” And so he, along with others, did something. Now there are great trails to ride in a place where none existed before.

To be fair to the golfers, none of this to say there’s inherent virtue in being a builder, or that mountain bikers are better than others because we build. And yes, it’s entirely possible to be a lifelong mountain biker and never lift a McLeod. But for me personally, I take a lot of pride and satisfaction in creating and lending a hand in whatever I do, and I’m stoked to be a part of a community of riders who agree. Mountain bikers are not just builders, we also encourage others to do the same so they make their own unique mark on the sport.

That’s why I’m proud to be a part of this worldwide build crew.

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